After waking in the middle of the night, I (Joy) couldn't quickly return to restful sleep as sorrow-filled thoughts evaded my consciousness. As has been the case so often during the past few months, the quietness of the night brings the reminder of a fierce trial that surrounds a close friend.
On Friday, November 13th, I received a call from Joanna. I was excited to hear her voice, knowing that she was probably calling to share the good news of her twenty week, mid-pregnancy ultrasound. The tone of her voice caused me to sit down quickly as I could tell something was wrong. With calmness in her sorrow, she said the ultrasound showed a serious medical condition that would surely take the life of their baby at birth. I listened in disbelief, my mind racing with a flood of possible solutions and ways to avoid the projected outcome. Then I came to the end of my inward fighting against the truth and asked if she could tell me the details once again. This time as I listened with acceptance, my heart felt as if it would break in two. A baby who was growing and kicking like any other healthy baby was going to die? How could it be? Yet the fact remained - their baby had a condition called Anencephaly and would surely die shortly after the birth. There was no cure. No medical intervention would save the life of this much loved baby. Our conversation ended with the question whose answer is usually joyously announced, "Did you find out what it is?" Joanna's voice broke as she said, "It's a boy."
I have never walked beside someone faced with so great a trial or difficult assignment from the Lord. Yet as I have watched Joanna's response to this terribly painful battle, I am convinced there is a saint among us.
Never in my life have I seen a Christian so quickly submit and humble herself under the mighty hand of God. Surely there is much turmoil in Joanna's heart, yet outwardly she has maintained a posture of submission to the Lord's will. Anger, sarcasm, and stubbornness - reactions of many when faced with a trial - are far from Joanna's speech and attitude. Instead, she has relied on God to carry her through her sorrow-filled days and she has come to Him as the loving Father that He is.
At the onset of the trial, Joanna was met with the option of aborting her son, which some might justify in light of the fact that he is destined to die regardless. Yet, she resolved to honor the life God placed in her care by loving her son fully for however many days God gave her to share with him. He was given the name "Jonathan Elijah".
As news spread of Jonathan's condition, she was met with well-meaning friends who, despite the certain fatal outcome, challenged Joanna to either claim a miracle of healing or deny, through faith, the existence of the condition. Both suggestions only serve to further exhaust a soldier who is already overcome by the battle in which they are immersed. Instead of weeping with those who weep, onlookers often add to the burden by assigning an additional challenge that forces the battle-torn soldier to delve into a theological debate defending her beliefs regarding the practice of claiming miracles. Even worse are those who inadvertently challenge the soldier's faith by equating the battle to the supposed lack of belief in the power of God to perform a miracle. Lord, forgive us for doing this to our weary brothers and sisters. In this phase of the battle, Joanna remained steadfast though her heart was wounded.
The next wave of grief would come from those friends who, because they didn't know what to say, said nothing at all about the great sorrow that rested on their friend's shoulders. They didn't realize that in their silence, it was perceived that they didn't care that this dear girl was facing the greatest trial of her life. A simple, "I'm so sorry" would have been sufficient. A card or a quick email reminding her that prayers were being lifted up on her behalf would have have been like drops of water on a dry, parched ground. Yet, Joanna only briefly mentioned the sorrow related to their silence. She quickly turned her focus back to her Lord and did not dwell on the much-needed support from friends.
Joanna has spoken so highly of the care she has received from her midwife, the high-tech medical team, and support from an organization that cares for families whose children have life-limiting illnesses. As much as these people have given her, surely they are the greater recipients to have observed Joanna's God-given strength and grace throughout this trial.
Through a series of meetings and conferences the hospital has been prepared for Jonathan's arrival. Jonathan's toddler sister and four big brothers have all been prepared through twice weekly visits from hospice. Steve, Joanna's husband, has been a rock to which the family has anchored during the storm. God has paved a path of grace and provision for this precious family.
This Tuesday, February 2nd, Joanna will be admitted to the hospital to prepare for Jonathan's birthday. Prayer requests surrounding the details of the birth are many.
May God be glorified as Joanna has so beautifully offered her body as a living sacrifice. May Joanna feel the support of a multitude as they boldly lift her before the throne of grace in this, her hour of greatest need. May we, as fellow sojourners, learn from the example set before us through Joanna's submission in this sorrowful trial. There is a saint among us.